Court dismisses Lekota challenge against parliamentary suspension

2012-12-11 16:56

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An application by Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota challenging his suspension for a day from the National Assembly earlier this year has been dismissed by the Western Cape High Court.

Responding to the Presidency’s budget vote in May, Lekota alleged President Jacob Zuma had violated his oath of office by not defending the constitutional rights of artist Brett Murray or City Press editor Ferial Haffajee.

The Congress of the People MP refused to withdraw the statement after being ordered to do so by deputy NA speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo.

He was booted from the house, which led to fellow Cope and DA MPs staging a walkout.

Lekota later filed papers in the court in a bid to overturn Mfeketo’s decision.

Parliament responded swiftly, saying today’s ruling vindicated Mfeketo and showed she had acted in good faith.

Defending Mfeketo in a statement, Parliament said: “She (Mfeketo) said that, except upon a properly motivated substantive motion, such allegations could not be allowed.”

Lekota was not present during today’s court proceedings, but said he had been informed his application was dismissed and there was no order as to costs.

“We honestly feel that if members of the legislature have to introduce substantive motions, then our right to scrutinise the work of the executive is hampered,” said Lekota.

He did not rule out an appeal, saying he would be consulting opposition parties and his lawyers on the way forward.

“This thing (court ruling) seems to now limit our right to criticise ... we can’t enjoy the freedom as set out in section 58 of the Constitution.”

Section 58 allows MPs the right to freedom of speech during assembly sittings, “subject to its rules and orders”.

ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga welcomed the ruling.

“Today’s court judgment will send a strong message to Lekota and his fellow travellers that Parliamentary business is governed by rules, which should be respected,” said Motshekga.

He said involving the judiciary in Parliamentary business undermined the doctrine of separation of powers.

“Section 57 of the Constitution affords the National Assembly the right to determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures as well as making rules and orders concerning its business,” said Motshekga.

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